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New Orleans • He raced coast to coast with the basketball, collided with Hawks center Dwight Howard and felt his knee lock up for a second.
"That stuff at the start of the season would have scared me," Danté Exum said afterward.
But in the midst of an up-and-down sophomore season, nearly a year and a half after undergoing surgery to repair his torn ACL, Exum is regaining his confidence in more ways than one.
The Jazz point guard has seen his minutes diminish and his role change drastically this season. In January, he played in six of his team's 15 games. But the young Aussie has put together some solid performances in back-to-back games now, and hopes to regain a regular spot in Quin Snyder's rotation.
"It's definitely been tough, sometimes not knowing how many minutes you'll get," Exum said. "But I've always stayed ready whenever my name would get called. I thought I did that in some games to deserve more minutes. It's about continuing that, to keep playing well and doing what I do."
With shooting guard Rodney Hood hurt, Exum got some extra playing time Saturday against the Charlotte Hornets, finishing with 11 points, three assists and a steal in 22 minutes. Exum followed that with a seven-point outing in 14 minutes Monday in Atlanta.
"What he's been doing is really, really working hard and I think he's been committed to the process of his development and not getting hung up on the things he can't control," Snyder said. "… Sometimes for players, especially young players, they want to have it all mapped out. Even if you want it that way, it rarely works that way. I think he's embraced some of the adversity that he's going through as a player. When guys do that, they grind, it feels good to see him have some success."
Not there yet
After a 25-point win over an Eastern Conference playoff team, a game in which the Jazz scored a season-high 120 points, shot a season-high 61.3 percent from the field and moved the ball as well as they had in perhaps any game this year, Snyder wasn't much in the mood to celebrate.
"We're a long way away from being at the level that we want to be at," he said. "It's just not where we are. We haven't been there yet. We've been there in a few spurts, but we've got work to do. We can pat ourselves on the back for about five seconds, then it's time to try to keep going."
Former Jazzman Sundiata Gaines posted a triple-double Monday his second of the D-League season for the Salt Lake City Stars. Gaines finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the Stars lost 138-129 to the Los Angeles D-Fenders. Jazz rookie Joel Bolomboy had 21 points and nine rebounds.